As a condition of their admission in the U.S., international students are required to obey all federal, state and local laws. Your visa status does not protect you from prosecution under the law. Ignorance of the laws does not protect you from prosecution. It is to your benefit to know the local, state and federal laws, since being convicted of a misdemeanor may result in deportation. Students who regard their stay in the U.S. as a "vacation" from the rules of their home country will not do well academically, nor will they serve as good ambassadors of their home countries.
Alcohol and Drugs
Laws relating to purchasing, consumption and sale of alcohol differ from country to country and, in the U.S., from state to state. Since most of your time will be spent in the state of Washington, you need to know that the legal age to buy or drink alcohol is 21. If you are under 21 (a "minor"), it is illegal for you to drink alcohol. If you are 21 or over, it is illegal for you to furnish alcohol to those under 21. Establishments selling alcohol will require valid photo identification with your date of birth. Accepted identifications include: an International Driver’s License, Department of Motor Vehicles Identification (if you do not drive) or a Washington State Driver’s License would be accepted. Your university identification will not be accepted.
The university policy governing alcohol use on campus is posted in The Logger. In general, those who are of legal drinking age may consume alcohol in areas which are defined as private, such as the interior of Union Avenue residences and inside university-owned homes. A student’s assigned room and some specifically designated lounges are private. Public areas where no drinking may occur are defined as the main lounges near a building entrance, hallways and foyers. The sale of alcohol on university property - public or private - is prohibited.
Possession, use or sale of illegal drugs (e.g., cocaine, heroin, hashish) is prohibited anywhere in the U.S. Penalties generally include: fines, jail sentences, and possibly deportation.
Drinking and Driving
Do not drink and drive!
Washington State has strict laws to punish drunk drivers. If your blood-alcohol level exceeds .08 you are considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (referred to as "DUI"). If you are convicted of a DUI, you face mandatory fines, mandatory jail time, and possible deportation. Depending on your height and weight, your blood alcohol can be .08 after as little as one glass of wine or one shot of hard alcohol. Your international student status does not protect or exempt you from American laws.
If you are going to drink, please do it responsibly. Either get a designated driver (someone who decides not to drink that evening) or take a taxi or bus to get home. For your own safety, never get into the car with someone who has been drinking.
Driving & Identification Cards
Americans are known to rely heavily on having individual transportation, and many new international students quickly decide that they, too, would like to have a car. Before buying a car, please consider the following points:
All drivers must have a valid driver’s license. You may drive with an international driver’s license obtained prior to your arrival, or a Washington State Driver’s License. You are expected to be familiar with the laws for driving in the state of Washington. A Driver’s Guide may be picked up from the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL). (See Appendix IV.)
If you apply for a Washington Driver’s License, remember to take your identification (passport, I-20 or DS -2019, home country driver’s license, and university identification card) with you. You must also take a copy of your SEVIS registration page in a sealed envelope. Three tests are required: vision, knowledge of laws, and driving. The fee for a new license is currently $89.00. Currently you do not need a Social Security Number (SSN) to obtain a driver’s license, however, you may need to complete a "Social Security Declaration Form", in which you declare you have no social security number. If you receive a SSN at a later date, you will need to inform the DOL immediately.
If you need to learn to drive, you will need a learner’s permit. Study the driving handbook and pass the written test first. You can then be issued a learner’s permit. This enables you to drive with anyone who has had more than five years of driving experience. The learner’s permit is good for one year from the day of issue, and should give you enough time to prepare for your driving test.
Purchasing a Car
You may purchase a car from a recognized dealer who sells new and used cars or buy from an individual advertising through the newspaper. It is best to take an international student who has had the experience of buying a car, or an American friend with you!
If buying a used car it is best to take it to a reputable mechanic and pay to have the car checked. They can usually tell whether the price that is being asked is reasonable, whether the car needs repairs and, approximately what the repairs will cost. It is possible to check on-line to determine whether a car was previously in an accident. Having this information, you are better prepared to decide whether or not this is a reasonable deal for you.
Vehicle insurance in our state is required by law. The cost of insurance varies based on the year of the car, its make and model, and the driver’s age, gender, and driving history. Sports cars are always the most expensive to insure. Unmarried males under the age of 25 in the U.S. also pay more because statistically they have the highest accident rate. When deciding on a car, keep these factors in mind.
Washington State ID Card
Even if you don’t plan to drive, it is recommended that you apply for a Washington State ID Card for an additional form of identification. You will need a copy of your passport, I-94 print-out, valid I-20, and SSN or Printout from SEVIS database. The cost is $54, and you will need to go to the nearest drivers licensing office.